60 years under the stars

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On weekends, Samantha Sherrod and her friends are headed to their favorite hangout spot -- The Big Mo. A few weeks ago, the 16-year-old Batesburg-Leesville High School student and her companions were first in line at the drive-in, officially known as Monetta Drive-In Theatre.

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From left, Zack Riordan, 14, Zalia Riordan, 12, and her dad Joshua Riordan watch the movie "Rio" from a comfortable spot inside their minivan at the Big Mo Drive-In movie theater.   MICHAEL HOLAHAN/staff
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/staff
From left, Zack Riordan, 14, Zalia Riordan, 12, and her dad Joshua Riordan watch the movie "Rio" from a comfortable spot inside their minivan at the Big Mo Drive-In movie theater.

"I've been coming since I was little," Samantha said. "It's really fun to come with your friends and family because you get to spend time with them and watch movies. You get to meet a bunch of new people if you walk around."

On a typical Friday, Saturday or Sunday night, carloads of eager moviegoers are lined up on Columbia Highway North in Monetta, S.C., waiting to enter the drive-in and enjoy a night of good, clean fun.

"Especially if good movies like Scream 4 and Limitless are coming out, all the teenagers will be here and sometimes you'll have a line going all the way up the road," Samantha said. "The drive-in is one of the best places to come because we can't get in trouble for loitering.

"You can't hang out in school parking lots anymore, you can't hang out in Walmart parking lot, but you can come here and hang out in your trucks. You don't get in trouble for it."

In addition to the movies, there are fun and games. During one visit, a kid started playing kick the-can, and Samantha and her friends joined in. When they came to see Ice Age 3 , they stopped by the Dollar Store to pick up flying discs and beach balls.

Her friend, Nicole Smith, 16, has been going to The Big Mo for five years.

"It's just a cool place to come hang out with your friends," Nicole said.

It's also a great value. At the drive-in, they can watch two movies for the price of one at a regular movie theater, she said.

This year, Monetta Drive-In Theatre is celebrating its 60th anniversary, said Lisa Boaz, who owns the drive-in with her husband, Richard. Monetta Drive-In opened April 26, 1951. It closed in 1986. Richard Boaz found the drive-in in 1998 and reopened it one year later.

"My husband saw it and fell in love with the idea of running a drive-in," Lisa Boaz said. "We had been to a drive-in when we first got married. We really enjoyed it and liked the old-fashioned, retro, Americana atmosphere. He found this one, and it was love at first sight for him."

The drive-in needed a lot of work, she said. The concession stand is the original building. They renovated the screen tower because it was barely standing. The speaker poles are original, but they're no longer used because the drive-in now has FM area sound.

In 2005, the owners added a second screen. Two weeks ago, they opened a third screen, Boaz said.

"That will let us have more new movies and hopefully always have a kid's movie," she said. "We have a lot of families that come out, and there are times of year where there are hardly any kids' movies being released by the studios. This will let us hold on to a kids' movie for a longer period of time so that people can plan their birthday parties and their family outings without having to worry if there's going to be a G or PG movie there."

Patrons at Monetta Drive-In watch a double feature. The first movie is less than 2 weeks old, and the second has usually been in theaters a few weeks. The drive-in is open from March to November.

"A lot of times we'll play a movie of the Star-Spangled Banner before the movie starts and everybody honks their horns at the end," she said.

While watching the movie, visitors either sit in their cars or in chair they have brought. Before the movie, it's common to see people flying discs or playing card games, knitting or visiting with family and friends. During a 15-minute intermission between the films, there are trivia contests. The Big Mo is pet-friendly.

"We have a lot of people that bring their dogs. The first night of Hop , we actually had someone who brought a bunny," Boaz said.

Amy Smith and her 14-year-old daughter, Michelle, the owners of the white-and-brown Holland Lop bunny, said they couldn't resist. They've also taken their Chihuahua out for a night at the movies. The Smiths live 20 miles away in Gilbert, but plan to keep making the drive to The Big Mo, which Amy has been doing for 16 years.

"I like the value," she said. "It's a really good price. The movies are always good. It's a good place to bring your kids for a nice family atmosphere."

She also enjoys the food, which is tasty and well-priced. There's always something to do at The Big Mo, such as holiday cookouts, pony rides and pajama nights.

"The last time I took her to an actual movie theater, it cost me $23 just for the two of us to get in," Smith said. "It was a 3-D movie, but we can come here and for $7 apiece get two very good movies. It's just a great getaway. As long as the Mo's open, I'll keep coming up here."

Carol Ann Robinson, of Aiken, recently introduced her fiance, David Hopkins, to the drive-in. Robinson, 20, has been a Big Mo regular since she was a kid.

"It's fun. I guess it's kind of nostalgic," Hopkins said on his first visit. "Something that your grandparents used to do."

Monetta drive-in theatre

WHERE: 5822 Columbia Highway N., Monetta, S.C.

HOURS: Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings; gates open at 7 p.m., first movie on each screen starts at dusk (approximately 8:30 p.m.)

DETAILS: Three screens available, double feature; $7 adults (12 and older), $3 children (4 to 11) and free for children 3 and under. Cash only at ticket booth. One transaction per car, and exact change is appreciated.

LEARN MORE: www.thebigmo.com

Now showing

MAIN SCREEN: Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (PG-13), Thor (PG-13)

SCREEN 2: Fast Five (PG-13), Madea's Big Happy Family (PG-13)

SCREEN 3: Rio (G), Water for Elephants (PG-13)

EXTRA FUN: Dress like a pirate this weekend and get a small popcorn free

COMING SOON: The Hangover Part II, Kung Fu Panda 2, Cars 2

Comments (10) Add comment
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bdouglas
4899
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bdouglas 05/19/11 - 09:53 am
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Love the Big Mo! But how has

Love the Big Mo! But how has the lady been making the drive to the Big Mo for 16 years when it's only been open again for 12 years?

InChristLove
22468
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InChristLove 05/19/11 - 11:31 am
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According to the article, the

According to the article, the drive-in opened in 1951 (celebrating 60 years), closed in 1986 and reopened in 1999. Maybe she's counting 4 years from when it was open prior to closing in 1986.

Rob Pavey
552
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Rob Pavey 05/19/11 - 11:46 am
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great story, LaTina!

great story, LaTina!

InChristLove
22468
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InChristLove 05/19/11 - 11:48 am
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Checked out the website and

Checked out the website and never realized that there were still drive-in theatres......most certainly will put this on my to-do list for the family. Good, clean, wholesome entertainment that won't cost me my whole paycheck.

Kirkwood
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Kirkwood 05/19/11 - 08:11 pm
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I look forward to the Big Mo

I look forward to the Big Mo each year. We don't get to go as often as I'd like but it's a great experience. Protip: People, get your fan belts serviced so as not to destroy the experience for everyone else.

Just My Opinion
5469
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Just My Opinion 05/19/11 - 08:44 pm
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I've never been to the Big

I've never been to the Big Mo, but I'd like to. I sure wish someone with the experience and means could open a drive-in here in Augusta...that'd be great! The teenagers would love it and I know families would appreciate it. Augusta used to have several drive-ins back "in the day". Great fun to load up the car, pop us some popcorn and fill up one of those paper grocery bags full, bring some drinks, and enjoy!
Kirkwood, or anyone else who has gone...you got any more tips for when we go?

curly123053
4570
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curly123053 05/19/11 - 10:27 pm
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I have been several times.

I have been several times. Half of the time I bring food in from someplace like Subway or something. They don't care. As long as you don't bring a cooler full of beer since it's all family fun with kids all over. And very affordable.

TrukinRanger
1748
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TrukinRanger 05/21/11 - 12:53 pm
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Anyone know if they've
Unpublished

Anyone know if they've updated the restrooms there? Last time I went (a while ago) they didn't have ANYTHING giving the stalls privacy! Also, remember that these type drive-ins pretty much ONLY make their money from concessions. The big movie companies are getting the proceeds from admission.

Just My Opinion
5469
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Just My Opinion 05/22/11 - 06:16 am
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Trukin, you're just about

Trukin, you're just about correct about the proceeds from the admissions going to the movie companies, although the theater does get alittle bit of it. But, you're right, the bulk of the profits for the theater comes from the concessions. However, the drive-in has a couple of huge advantages over an in-house type theater...pretty much no janitorial costs for cleaning up the "theater" (I guess a leaf-blower and a trash bag?...no mopping), no cost for heating and air conditioning, minimal cost for overhead lighting, no cost for anything associated with having shows during the day (because they can't!).

emergencyfan
0
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emergencyfan 05/24/11 - 12:42 pm
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We have been 2 or 3 times. A

We have been 2 or 3 times. A long drive there and back--but I definitely recommend experiencing it at least once!

Take bug repellent. The mosquitos will eat you alive once the sun sets!

Take a flashlight so you can find your way to the snack bar/bathrooms after dark w/o tripping on uneven ground.

Also, the photo above is a little deceiving. You are not allowed to open the hatches of cars or vans higher than the normal height of your vehicle (so that you don't block the view of the people behind you). So if you want the open-air experience, you may need to bring a piece of rope or twine so you can tie off your hatch at an acceptable height.

It's been awhile since we went, but I seem to recall pets were allowed on leashes. Is that still the policy?

tinytuna
74
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tinytuna 06/01/11 - 10:41 am
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We went last week-end. The

We went last week-end. The Monetta Fire Dept. cooked hamburgers & hotdogs. WOW were they good! The whole experience is a lot of fun for us. (I grew up at the Hill Top Drive-In in North Augusta.) There weren't any mosquitoes. There are 3 screens. It is delightful to go into the concession stand and buy food. The bathrooms have been updated with better doors. We sit outside in lounge chairs. We take a portable radio and sit it on the car. This place is like stepping back in time. I like it so much. Thank you Richard & Lisa Boaz!

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